The Whip Chain

During the Ching Dynasty in China, the emperor’s private bodyguards had their whip chains with them wherever they went.  When accompanying the emperor, they could easily conceal the weapon around their waists, and could quickly and very effectively bring the weapon into its devastating use.

The whip chain is known as a soft weapon in Chinese martial arts due to its extreme flexibility of use.  It is a metal linked chain usually containing seven or nine links, with a handle on one end and a heavy pointed tip, or dart, on the other.  The weapon is used by rapidly swirling the chain around the body.  The heavy dart on the chain can be thrown using the arms, legs, shoulders and even the head.  When in an attack or throwing mode, the chain can be quickly coiled back and redirected to any direction around the body.

Learning to use the whip chain takes long hours of practice.  At times, a few cuts and bruises can be expected.  Loss of focus, even for an instant, can turn out to be painful.  However, using flags at both the handle and the dart end of the weapon allows the chain’s rate of movement to be decreased, and also allows the ends of the weapon to be easily seen.  The use of a sheath at the dart end of the chain is also very helpful, as it greatly reduces the impact of the dart on the practitioner’s body in case of loss of control.

The whip chain in action is a beautiful and interesting weapon, and its proper use is a long-term challenge to the practitioner.  The practice of the whip chain is fairly rare, especially in the United States.  Through the tutelage of Master Robert, those students learning and mastering the whip chain will continue this weapon’s fascinating history.

Steel (or Iron) Fan

The Chinese have a saying regarding weapons, “The shorter it is – the more dangerous.  The more ordinary looking, the deadlier it is.”

This saying is perfectly appropriate for the steel fan.  The Chinese often turn ordinary household implements, like a pair of chopsticks, a wooden stool, a rice bowl, and even a pair of sandals into a deadly weapon.  It is considered a short weapon, about 14 inches long, very innocent looking, and not that much different to an everyday paper fan, except the ribs are made of stainless steel instead of bamboo strips, and the paper is replaced by toughened silk.  When carrying one unopened, no on can tell it is a weapon at all.  Even when opened, the fan itself looks quite ordinary and harmless.  However, in the hands of an expert, the innocent looking fan can be a lethal weapon.

The steel fan is quite a handy weapon to have, it is easy to carry and is inconspicuous.  When the weather is warm, you can use the fan to cool yourself and chase the flies away.  When you are in danger, you can use the steel fan as an effective weapon for self-defense because the ribs are made of steel.  You can use it to block and deflect much larger weapons by wrapping the fan against your forearm and turning it into an “iron bridge hand.”  You can use it for “chin na” (grappling) and you can use it for acupressure point striking.

When folded, the fan can be used like a short dagger to cut, to jab, and to slash.  When unfolded, the fan can be used like a spring-loaded knife  with sharpened ribs to stab, slice and spear your opponent.  Combine it with your body movement and footwork and you can turn the short fan into a long weapon by launching yourself at your opponent while throwing open the fan.  Thus, turning a soft implement into a hard weapon with a flick of your wrist.

You can also flick open the fan as a fake, as the action makes a loud noise that will distract your opponent’s attention while you kick or throw a punch elsewhere.  The open fan can work like a saw to slice with the tips of the ribs opened up into a semi-circle.  While the fan is open, you use the broad surface like a backhand slap against the face of your opponent.  It is indeed a very versatile weapon.

The fan is considered an “internal” weapon, because it uses the “soft” to overcome the “hard” and the short to overcome the long.  When using the fan;  “the mind must be coupled with the heart, the heart with the strength, the strength with the chi, the chi with the fan, the fan with the eyes, and skill with dexterity.”

Internal Training

Internal training occurs solely through the practice of the empty hand and weapons forms and moves through three stages.  In the beginning, diligent and thorough practice of the forms with the correct postures and details of the techniques is required.  The second stage progresses beyond technique, as the forms are performed with swift coordination, precise timing, fluid rhythm, flowing momentum, and maximum focus.  Combining these qualities with an understanding of the techniques allows one to practice the forms as if one were encountering an opponent.  The final stage reaches the state of chuan, no chuan (technique, no technique), yi, no yi, (mind, no mind).  The Chinese maxim reads “from no yi shoots out true yi,” meaning that from thoughtlessness comes true meaning.  The internal practice follows the tradition of Zen rather than Taoist methods of consciously or willfully guiding the chi through special routes.  All one needs is a total commitment to the form without any mistakes or artificial feelings for the true unification of mind, body, and action to occur.

Weapons Etiquette

  1. If you haven’t been trained on a weapon at our school, don’t touch the weapon.
  2. Never touch the mat with your blade.  It shows you are not ready for the responsibilities of the weapon.
  3. If someone is using your personal weapon during class and you are called to train with that weapon, you may bow and request it from them.
  4. Before attaining the black sash rank, you are to use wooden weapons.  Metal weapons may be used for practice upon earning the black sash rank.